From left, mayoral candidate Reese Scripture, Mayor Deborah Wooley, Councilman Howie Airriess and City Council candidate Kathy Phillips compose the League of Women Voters’ candidate panel at Clawson City Hall Sept. 30.

From left, mayoral candidate Reese Scripture, Mayor Deborah Wooley, Councilman Howie Airriess and City Council candidate Kathy Phillips compose the League of Women Voters’ candidate panel at Clawson City Hall Sept. 30.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Clawson governmental hopefuls participate in candidate panel

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 8, 2019

 Susan Liebetreu, of the League of Women Voters, moderates the panel.

Susan Liebetreu, of the League of Women Voters, moderates the panel.

Photo by Deb Jacques


CLAWSON — On Sept. 30, the League of Women Voters facilitated a forum for candidates running for mayor and City Council at Clawson City Hall.

Mayoral candidate Reese Scripture, Mayor Deborah Wooley, Councilman Howie Airriess and City Council candidate Kathy Phillips participated in the panel. City Council candidates Louis J. Samson and Jeff Gaglio were absent.

Gaglio told the Royal Oak Review that he chose to withdraw from the race after the withdrawal deadline, so his name will remain on the Nov. 5 ballot. If elected, he said, he would decline the position.

Samson told the Royal Oak Review that he was in Europe on vacation. 

There are two council seats up for election.

Moderator Susan Liebetreu, of the League of Women Voters, asked the candidates questions submitted by members of the public who gathered at City Hall for the event. Candidates were allowed one minute to answer each question.

Wooley said she would like the opportunity to continue to be a part of the team that leads the city forward.

“I’m passionate to maintain Clawson’s small-town community atmosphere where anyone can make a difference. I want to challenge all of you to reach out to state representatives to see what we can do to change their mind on the revenue sharing,” Wooley said. “Clawson has lost $6 million since 2002 based on the state not sending the money for revenue sharing.”

Airriess, who has been on the council for 12 years, said he wants one more term to “try to get things straightened up around here.”

“If elected to council, I would work hard to maintain the quality of our city services we’re all used to,” Airriess said. “I’ll do my best to encourage new businesses to consider the city of Clawson as the place to be. I love Clawson.”

Scripture said she is running for mayor because she doesn’t agree with the current City Council and is not happy with its performance.

“I’m up here because I think I can do a better job and I hope I can get your vote,” Scripture said. “Regardless, it is not an easy job, and anybody that is willing to put the time in and do the work deserves some respect and acknowledgement for that.”

Wooley said she would like to create a marketing packet to advertise Clawson’s schools, services, businesses, events and opportunities. She said she would distribute them to real estate agents and have them available at city buildings. She also expressed a desire to foster more partnerships with local universities to teach classes at the schools.

When the city’s debts — such as the library’s debt and various drain debts — are paid, Wooley proposed asking residents to fund infrastructure improvements to help with flooding and roads through taxes. 

Scripture said that, if elected, she would be more willing to work with community members to improve the city. She also expressed a desire to explore the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption, the Michigan crowdfunding legislation.

“I know an individual in the community who has been approaching City Council now for over a year and has expertise in sustainability infrastructure. He has offered his time and services and asked to start a committee over and over and has been ignored and not taken advantage of,” Scripture said.

She said that transparency is a major issue in Clawson.

“I am suing City Council for violating the Open Meetings Act multiple times that I had evidence of, and after asking multiple times and pointing out some of the issues and being ignored, I finally took the step of taking it to the next level,” Scripture said. “I’m running for transparency.”

Phillips said she is “absolutely 100% for transparency.” Phillips is a former Clawson councilwoman who opted not to run for reelection in 2015 because her daughter was a senior in high school and she wanted to be more available.

“As a council member, if I were to come back, I would be discussing things. We would be discussing more stuff up here at the (council table),” she said. “We’re not going to talk about things in closed sessions and then come out and just vote on them. They need to be discussed in public. They need to have more town meetings.”

When asked if they would be in favor of or opposed to marijuana dispensaries in Clawson, Scripture and Phillips said it was too early for them to make a decision. Wooley and Airriess leaned more toward being opposed presently.

“I contacted the police. They really don’t want (it). We don’t want this in here. It means more police, and do we want more facilities in our little town, like more liquor stores. That’s exactly what it’s going to be,” he said.

Wooley said she wished to take the time to fully understand the topic by having the city’s legal and planning staff learn more about the law and new regulations.

“We are too small to experiment with dispensaries and anything that’s bleeding edge; we just really need to take the time to make sure we do it right,” Wooley said.

Phillips said the town hall that Clawson held on the topic of new marijuana regulations did not include enough information about how they would affect Clawson.

“They can only be located in certain zoned areas, so right now, the way it’s looking is the only place they could possibly (be located) without an exception is about 15 (Mile) and Crooks,” she said.

Scripture criticized the city for a lack of public input and for “waiting until the last minute” to opt out from allowing adult-use marijuana facilities in the city.

“Other cities have been doing this for a year. They’ve had multiple meetings. They’ve explained and educated fully on the law so people can make good decisions,” she said.

When asked about the No. 1 issue in Clawson right now, Wooley said different residents have different concerns and her mentality is to “go at it at all facets at a time.”

Scripture said the city needs to stop simply reacting and start engaging more proactively with the community.

Airriess said infrastructure is his “big thing” and that the city needs more “greenery.”

Phillips said that, besides infrastructure, the city is “bleeding employees.”

“I think that’s our first matter of priority is to get the employees back on base with us,” she said. “They’re part of the reason that Clawson runs so well. (We need) to reset that structure and that trust and everything.”

She said former City Manager Mark Pollock left, followed by his assistant, then the clerk, followed by his replacement.

“There was a complete disconnect between employees and the council. No one feels safe in their positions right now, so we need to get that back,” Phillips said. “For a couple years, Mark actually did the union contracts without a lawyer. … That trust in the system is just not there anymore.”

Airriess said Pollock retired because he was frustrated, while Scripture said he was terminated.

In November 2018, the city and Pollock abruptly entered into a separation agreement, which bound all parties from further comment. 

“There are a lot of different reasons why people left, and some were great decisions for themselves,” Wooley said.

When asked about the roles of the city manager and the City Council as defined by the city’s charter, all candidates agreed that the strong city manager is in charge of running the city, and the council’s job is to supervise and offer direction, as well as focus on budgets, policies and ordinances.

When asked what unique qualities candidates offer to Clawson in terms of previous life and work experiences, Phillips said she views herself as an activist who isn’t afraid to voice her opinion or “candy coat things just to make people happy.”

Scripture said she taught governmental accounting in a master’s program for about seven years and has also been a union steward. One of her degrees is in planning, she said, and she has worked as a city planner for a municipality.

“I’m an accountant. I’m an auditor, so I actually fundamentally understand how to budget in a city,” she said. “I also audit personnel plans in municipalities and universities, so I have a pretty deep fundamental understanding about pension issues.”

Wooley said she is “analytical” and researches any subject matter that comes before the council.

“I like to read and find different sources for all the information and base a decision with those facts, as well as the opinions of the residents,” she said.

Airriess said he has worked hard with the Clawson Lions Club for the past 25 years.

“We helped a lot of people out, and that’s what we got to do in this town. We’re volunteers and we want to keep volunteering and keep doing good for people,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Ulbrich’s term expires Nov. 11. He opted not to run again.

The terms of Councilwomen Paula Millan and Susan Moffitt expire Nov. 8, 2021.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.